An Ode to the Filling Station


This post originally appeared on Car Lust December 10, 2013

I decided to resurrect this post after Oregon recently decided to let its fair citizens pump their own gas for the first time since 1951. . .at least in certain counties with low populations. After all, what is more common, more unobtrusive, more benign than stopping for a couple of minutes to fill the old car up with gas?

I guess a lot of stuff, if you live in urban Oregon or New Jersey. But how did such a ubiquitous facet of daily life come into being in the first place?

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Dad’s LTD and the Great Blizzard of 1978

Not my dad's car, but one very much like it, photographed at a car show in the summer of 2008.

I called Dad’s ’76 LTD “The Battleship,” and that was not a term of endearment. It was the size of a capital ship, and painted an appropriate shade of gray. Put a couple of aftermarket gun turrets on the hood and a mast on the roof–there was already space enough for the helicopter landing pad on the decklid–and you’d have a fair representation of USS New Jersey as she appeared during the Vietnam war.

The Battleship had a black vinyl landau roof treatment and opera windows. Its interior was festooned with imitation wood and plastic pseudo-chrome. Its engine was an emissions-strangled V-8 mated to a three-speed slushbox, which produced a 0-60 time geologists could relate to. It had no-lateral-support bench seats, soft springs, overboosted power brakes, and steering that employed Ford’s most advanced sensory deprivation technology. The car’s overall build quality reflected the “national malaise” of the 1970s.

In other words, it was exactly the kind of car I hate.

This particular LTD was, however, a car I had to respect. The reason why is because of what that ugly, overweight, underpowered, hulking road barge did for Dad and me on one extraordinary January day 40 years ago, during the  Great Blizzard of 1978.

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The Cars of Miami Vice


There was a TV show that I really couldn’t wait to see when I got home from school. I’ve seen it before when I was a little boy, but upon rediscovery, I couldn’t resist. It had a few years on it, but it was a classic, and that show was… The A-Team. I was aware of Miami Vice, being the show that came before The A-Team. It’s a police drama with a group of Miami’s Vice division as the main characters, usually taking place in 1980s Miami, Florida. But with the little scenes that I caught back then I could tell that it was too much for me at the time. Too real. Even if I were to watch it back then I wouldn’t have been able to appreciate it as I would now. It was only a matter of time, because if it wasn’t for the cars, it would’ve been the music. All of it. I wish there was a box set of all the tracks used; from Jan Hammer’s/John Petersen’s/Tim Truman’s most obscure background mood music track (except the Jack of All Trades episode, those sucked), to all other tracks ranging from Afrika Bambaataa to P Machinery to ZZ Top. Until then, let’s talk about the cars… Continue reading

The Fast and the Furious (1955), a review:


Final warning: if you’re looking for a review on any of the Fast & Furious movies, leave now. We’re gonna review the cult classic who lent its name to that over-the-top franchise.

Frank Webster (John Ireland) is a wanted man. He’s being accused of running a trucker off the road. At a roadside diner, a trucker asks one too many questions and quickly deduces who Frank is. Frank knocks him out and takes Connie (Dorothy Malone) hostage as well as her sports car. Naturally, Connie puts up a fight and attempts at running away every moment she can. Frank’s goal: reach Mexico. With cops patrolling the area, and with them waiting for the truck driver to come around for a full description, Frank opts to do what Connie was planning on doing with her Jaguar sports car: enter a race that crosses into Mexico. Continue reading

In Memory of Jerry Van Dyke: The 1928 Porter Touring Car

We lost Jerry Van Dyke yesterday (Jan. 5, 2018); he was probably best known as Luther Van Dam on “Coach.”  But he had a unique connection to the car world, so here’s a little tribute to Jerry, from the Golden Age of Color Television:

Porter 1928Today, building a new car from previously-introduced components such as engines, instruments, body, and chassis pieces is nothing unique.  Lotus even does it with a Toyota engine.  But back just before The Great Depression, when there were practically more automotive manufacturers in America than there were cars on the road, the idea of borrowing bits and pieces from one make and/or model to complete another one was a brilliant, pioneering breakthrough. Continue reading